Author Topic: Border immigration surge reaches the Big Bend  (Read 112 times)

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Offline Elderberry

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Border immigration surge reaches the Big Bend
« on: June 12, 2019, 01:16:25 PM »
Houston Chronicle by  John MacCormack June 10, 2019

PRESIDIO — When almost 100 Central Americans, including many women and children, waded the shallow Rio Grande here recently, Border Patrol agents in the undermanned outpost in far West Texas quickly called for backup from the Marfa and Alpine stations.

Immigrants who were sick or injured were sent to a hospital in Alpine, those needing delousing to the port of entry, single adults to Marfa and those with children and unaccompanied children went to Van Horn, 135 miles away.

During the labor-intensive processing, the checkpoint on U.S. 67 was temporarily unmanned.

”With that group, we had no warning. They were on chartered buses,” recalled Special Agent in Charge Derek Boyle, who came to Presidio a year ago.

It was among a series of mass arrivals last month, when 18 groups of at least 20 people came across from Ojinaga, Mexico, something never before seen here.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the political and humanitarian crisis on the border would eventually reach the Big Bend, a region long buffered by its remoteness and its harsh and spectacular terrain. So dear to tourists, but so difficult to patrol.

All told during May, agents in the Big Bend Sector detained about 1,200 people, roughly 900 of them in Presidio, a rate far higher than normal.

While that was a mere trickle compared with almost 50,000 people detained in May in the Rio Grande Valley sector and nearly 40,000 in the El Paso sector, for the Big Bend it was extraordinary.

“The unfortunate reality is that the level of increase in apprehensions is not linear, it’s almost exponential. We’re almost doubling as we go from one month to the next,” said Matthew Hudak, who two months ago became new Big Bend Sector chief.

In 2014, only 4,096 people were apprehended in a sprawling sector that encompasses 165,000 square miles, and includes Oklahoma. Last year, 8,045 people were detained in the sector.

The sector’s roughly 500 agents cover more than 500 miles of the river border, all but a small fraction of which is rough, back country. The Presidio station alone is responsible for 113 miles of the Rio Grande.

Given the vastness of his sector, Hudak readily acknowledged the impossibility of having a presence everywhere.

“We have 25 percent of the southern border, but we also have the smallest staffing on the southern border, roughly a third of the next smallest sector. You can do the math and get a good picture,” he said.

A ‘hardship post’

Not long ago, most immigrants detained here were Mexicans, single males heading north looking to work.

Now Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence are appearing almost everywhere, wandering around downtown Alpine, entering Big Bend National Park in large groups and turning up in Terlingua at the Brewster County Family Crisis Center, where two stranded Guatemalans recently sought help.

In late February, when three exhausted and dehydrated Salvadorans stood waving for help on the roadside north of Marfa, a local lawyer picked them up, only to be quickly pulled over by a county deputy.


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